“So I walk in and there’s Reggie, right? Just sitting there with his eyes closed and that stupid Reggie smile on his face. He’s got his legs crossed and his arms spread out like he’s meditating, and he’s doing this sort of a low, weirdly continuous hum on one note. He takes breaths now and then, obviously, but whenever he does he just starts right back up again and acts like he was humming the whole time. But, you know, this is all classic Reggie, right? What else is he gonna do on a Thursday night?” Ed and I chuckle a bit at that, and he takes the opportunity to finish off his beer before continuing. This is also, of course, an intentional move on his part to increase tension in his audience (me) before cutting into the meat of the story. We both know he doesn’t give this much build-up to a story unless it’s really something.

“Alright, so he’s just sitting there, so what?” I ask, happy to play along.

Ed grins and replies, “Just sitting there? Just sitting where?” It’s a guessing game now. When it turns into a guessing game, your best bet is to convince him you can’t guess—then he’ll tell you.

“The floor?” I ask, “His bed? His cat?” Ed shakes his head and laughs at the last one.

“Come on,” he says, “guess for real.”

“A stool?” Like I said, I’m not trying very hard. “I don’t know. I give up.”

His disappointment is momentary and its place is taken by a mad glee as he leans forward to whisper, “Nothing.”

Now, Ed likes to joke around, but he doesn’t make stuff up. He doesn’t pull your leg and then laugh if you believe him. If he tells you something, he means it. Maybe that can help you appreciate why all the blood drains from my face and I stop bothering to keep my mouth closed. “Nothing?” I half-whisper and half-croak.

Ed’s put me on his tire swing and done a swell job twisting me round and round in it. The rope’s gotten to the point where it’s all bunched up, and he’s about to let me spin.

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